Leading climate action with our heads, hearts and hands

Post author image. Amanda Mackenzie OBE
Amanda Mackenzie OBE, Chief Executive at BITC argues now is the time for decisive action to avoid the worst outcomes of the climate crisis.

Amanda Mackenzie, OBE dressed in a dark outfit smiling into the camera.

Your decisions are surgical instruments, you could save us with the right one.”

Ellen Renton

These powerful words written by poet Ellen Renton for Business in the Community (BITC) sum up what we all know. It is time for decisive action to avoid the worst outcomes of the climate crisis, the potential collapse of civilisation itself.

COP26 has been a marker in the sand. While there has been much criticism, there has also been progress. As we reflect on the outcomes, we must turn our attention to the action needed to build public trust that business will deliver on commitments to be part of the solution.

This is a question of leadership, putting climate action at the heart of our company’s purpose and our personal priorities. We must look beyond short-term returns, competitive advantage and growth at all costs because our future success depends on it. Who wants to say they made a quick buck and yet steered their company to be one giant stranded asset?

Let’s make success in delivering against climate goals as important as financial and operational success. Who wants to be blamed by their children and grandchildren for not dealing with this? Having just marked another Remembrance Sunday, I was struck by the fact that this is a war in reverse. Fight it now or we are powerless to save future lives.

We don’t need any more statistics on how bad it’s going to be and for which sectors. It’s going to be awful if we don’t do all we can. We cannot have free loaders in the fight for the planet. But we will need accurate data to ensure the veracity of everyone’s good intentions and actions.

A fair and inclusive transition

We are in this together. BITC’s recent survey with YouGov showed that the vast majority of the public (86%) believe the harmful effects of climate impacts and the net-zero transition will not be spread equally across society1. This means companies must build resilience with the same urgency as they cut carbon. They must also equip employees with the skills they need to succeed in a rapidly changing economy and enable those who need them most to gain skills to access the new jobs that will emerge2.

Let’s involve diverse voices in shaping and implementing strategies and co-creating solutions to shared challenges with communities. It will be by building true partnerships with suppliers that we will ensure products and services are helping customers be part of the solution too.

We have to be able to think about fixing the climate and nature crises at the same time. Otherwise it’s like trying to lose weight by eating chocolate alone. It’s technically possible but there are a host of unintended consequences further down the line.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed. But I’m inspired everyday by how businesses are rising to the challenge. Salesforce has achieved net-zero and uses 100% renewable energy3. National Grid is making the grid 100% renewable ready by 2025 and bp is transforming to become an integrated energy provider, slashing oil and gas production in the next decade4.

We are seeing investment in nature through schemes like United Utilities’ Sustainable Catchment Management Project (SCaMP)5 and in large scale wind energy by Lloyds Bank6.

The circular economy is coming to life. Anglian Water are powering 12% of the UK’s tomato production through waste heat. Encirc have created the world’s most sustainable glass bottle with 100% recycled glass from furnaces powered by ultra-low carbon biofuels.

Anglian Water and National Grid’s actions are described in more detail in our Seven Steps for Climate Action toolkit.

BITC members can read more about all these examples as well as how other members of our network are taking action in our 26 Stories from COP26 document.

Heads, hearts and hands

Business in the Community is a network where we challenge ourselves to do better every day. I like to think we have the humility and integrity to admit when we don’t have all the answers.  We collaborate to solve problems that seem to get more complex each time we look at them and share what we find to save others time and energy. There isn’t a moment to lose.

Only the collective application of heads, hearts and hands across traditional boundaries, whether professions, sectors or governments, will enable the transformation needed to limit climate chaos to liveable levels. 

The task is all ours. So, join us and together we can create a legacy that we can be proud of. Tackling the climate crisis really is everybody’s business. Let’s get to work. 

Our Seven Steps for Climate Action will help you identify where to start to play your part in delivering a fair and inclusive transition to a resilient, net-zero economy where people and nature can thrive. Many businesses are doing well on one or more of these steps, but no single company is excelling at them all.

References

  1. Business in the Community (2021) Only one in 10 people believe tackling climate change will negatively impact their job, 2 November.
  2. ibid.
  3. Salesforce (2021) Salesforce Achieves Net Zero Across Its Value Chain and 100% Renewable Energy, 21 September.
  4. bp (2020) From International Oil Company to Integrated Energy Company: bp sets out strategy for decade of delivery towards net zero ambition, 4 August.
  5. United Utilities (2021) Catchment management.
  6. Lloyds Bank (2021) Dogger Bank Wind Farm, 1 February.